Thursday, November 27, 2008

Goats can't read

A few weeks ago, Bob and I rented a car to explore the Hawkesbury River area, about an hour north of Sydney. A wide river cut through rolling hills, trees flaunted their bright new foliage, and I got to ride a pony! 
During my teenage years, my Dad gratefully took me to horseback riding lessons. Though I was no horse-whisperer, I learned enough to look somewhat graceful while trying not to fall off the horse. So, when I got to the stables in Hawkesbury, I figured I'd do pretty well. 

Well, I managed not to fall off. But grace was no factor in the day. Still, I was on a horse so I was happy. The stable was quite nice. They even matched your horse to your hair color so you didn't clash . . . well not really. 

After my lesson, Bob and I stumbled upon a small county fair. It's a good thing goats can't read.
The sign says "Red Meat Tastes Good, Goat Meat Tastes Better!"
This strapping lad is about to perform the "bush-castration-technique." 

And that's about all I have. I spent most of today cooking an "Aussie" Thanksgiving day feast. The kitchen is not my domain. It made my brain hurt. I retire with the utmost respect to kitchen and its confusing concoctions. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Bird and Bartering

If Arnold Schwarzenegger turned into a large bird capable of swallowing pythons whole, his statue would look like this. Taking a break from hiking through the rainforest, Bob and I left the trees and critters to explore Singapore's creature comforts. 

Shopping seems to be Singapore's national pastime. Malls abound like pimples on a teenager. If you want to rub well groomed shoulders with
Armani or explore the "exotic" stores of Toys R' Us and Borders, Orchard Road is the place to be. Unfortunately, it wasn't where I wanted to be. I didn't travel thousands of miles to shop with Geoffrey the Giraffe.

Bob and I left the glitz and crowds of Orchard Road and headed to Chinatown for some open air markets, sightseeing, and of course bartering. 
Bob found that I was surprisingly good at bartering. He'd be set on a price, but then I'd haggle the price down another $20. I think it's because of my winning natural frown - made merchants think I was displeased with the previous offer. I wear my frown about 90% of each day, so I'm kind of a pro. It's not that I'm sad, it's just the way my lips prefer to rest. But hey, I got some killer deals on textiles!

One of the best decisions we made, was to get massages. We really needed one after the previous day's monkey hike. For $25 US, we were gently shoved into leather seats with individual tvs on the armrests, brewed fresh tea, and we each got a 45 minute foot reflexology massage - it was awesome!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sins of Singapore

Chewing gum is illegal. What kind of country could ban such a wonderful, life-giving form of chicle? Singapore.

I thought it was a joke. I was wrong. A single tear arched down my cheek, in the crisp and clean Singapore airport, as I had to, dutifully, throw away my perfectly good pack of spearmint gum. 

Bob got called into a last minute meeting in this small, island country and I got to tag along! So this week I am wandering the interesting, multicultural, old yet new city.

We explored the beautiful MacRitchie Reservoir Park. There, we walked in the suffocatingly muggy jungle under a noon-day sun whilst severely ill-supplied with water. 

In the lush jungle, signs taught us two seemingly important lessons:
1) Trees like to drop branches on you
2) Don't feed the monkeys. 

Bob had never seen a monkey in the wild and was keen to spot one of the local macaques. Our best bet to see them was up above the canopy on the

Tree Top Walk. This would give us a roundtrip hike of 7km, which should be easy. Well, it would have been  easy if we had brought more food, water, and a personalized A.C. unit. 

Bob and I paused whenever we heard a critter passing through the leaf litter, hoping for a monkey. But it was never a monkey that appeared on an overhead branch. Usually just a chatty squirrel.

Anyway, a couple hours later, in the heat of the day, Bob and I finally stumbled up to the suspended Tree Top Walk. While I was holding the railing, peering through branches to the distant ground and sweating like a kid asked by a dentist if they flossed, Bob called my name.

I walked over to Bob and followed his ecstatic gaze, to see a very content monkey. The monkey grabbed a handful of leaves from a nearby tree, then suddenly vanished with a branch-snapping crash in the undergrowth.

So Bob got to see a monkey in the wild. Remembering how strict Singapore was with lawbreakers, we obeyed the sign, and refused to feed the monkey.
Oh, and in Singapore, a bird in the hand is not worth two in the bush. It's worth a hefty fine. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beware the Magpies of Spring

Warmer days, basking lizards, birds pecking out the eyes of small children - ah, the signs of spring in Sydney. Lush flowers are overwhelming Sydney with their myriad of fragrances.  Birds are nesting and blue-tongued skinks emerge to soak up warm rays of the sun.
And magpies are raising chicks. Apparently these large, crow-like birds get quite defensive during the breeding season. Male magpies often attack humans passing their nests. In particular, they seem to go after the eyes of children, and the heads of people with red hair. Lovely. 

A few weeks ago, a girl was biking around her local park when a magpie repeatedly attacked her. It pecked her eye out. So if you're in Australia in spring, keep an eye to the sky.

Attacks like this are not too common, and the rest of the year the magpies are very nice and they do have a beautiful song. It's just breeding season you have to watch out for. 

But it seems Australians just take it in stride like everything else. Just watch your eyes, and no worries.

So, I will leave this entry with a boat safety tip.
Boat Safety 101: This is NOT how you row the boat ashore.